The Cast of my Latest Short Story

“The X of Doom” is the short story that I’m currently working on. I started it in January with the intention of finishing the first draft that month; it’s now the end of May, and I estimate that the first draft is about halfway done. Characters have been put into place, backstories have been told, destinies have been revealed, but I honestly have no idea what’s going to happen next. I’ve been staring at the document most of the day. I’ve added a few paragraphs, but I’m still at a loss. Maybe I just need to listen to some pirate music and get some inspiration.

So, in lieu of actually working on the story, I’ve been doing what I frequently do when I work on a project: finding celebrities who look like the characters as I imagine them. In “The X of Doom”, a young woman from the year 1973 named Deborah finds herself up against the Pirate Queen in the year 1769. In my mind, Deborah looks like Emily Browning, who starred in Sucker Punch, The Uninvited, and A Series of Unfortunate Events:

While I had Emily Browning in mind as the face of Deborah Skelling since the early outline of this story, I spent a lot of time pondering the face of the Pirate Queen. Up until the other day, I thought it would be Helen Mirren or Judi Dench. Then I realized that the Pirate Queen had to be younger, just to make the backstory work. So today I decided that the Pirate Queen should look like Jennifer Connelly (who starred in The Rocketeer, Labyrinth, House of Sand and Fog, Dark Water, and plenty of others):

And portraying Nigel Livingstone, who gets Deborah into this predicament in the first place because of his love for the Pirate Queen, is Jude Law, from Sherlock Holmes, The Holiday, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Because why not:

Okay, well, that was fun and a nice diversion. And now I think I’ll either get back to writing, or to watching Food Network Star.


Okay, I don’t feel quite the level of angst that the subject of Edvard Munch’s painting seems to, but I still feel some, especially when it comes to my writing.

Of course, every writer experiences angst of some sort when it comes to their craft. Is my writing good enough? Will the editors like this one? Even best-selling authors with a vastly successful track record must feel some of this when they’re working on a new project. Maybe this one isn’t as good as the ones before? Will this one find a home? Will this one even sell?

My own angst generally comes down to this question: what in the world have I written? And where can I possibly send it? It actually comes down to a question of genre… and the fact that I have no idea what genre many of stories fit into. For example, my story “Teh K1ng in Y3ll0w” is nominally a Lovecraftian pastiche, but it’s also a caper story and a comedic piece. Where would it go? It wouldn’t go to any of the major horror markets (unless they have a remarkably flexible editor), but it wouldn’t go to any humor markets either. So… What do I do with it?

Some of my mixed-genre stories have found homes (see my Bibliography page), but most of them sit in my files, waiting for that special market, the place that will take the sort of story I tend to write. Major markets, especially SFWA and HWA qualifying markets, tend to be genre-specific: Analog, for example, is geared towards hard science fiction. Asimov’s is a more flexible, but still expects science fiction primarily. Fantasy and Science Fiction is, well, geared toward fantasy and science fiction. It might be a good home for “The X of Doom” when I finish that one, but, again, “Teh K1ng in Y3ll0w” probably won’t work there.

So: Sigh.

When it comes to novels, I think I’m in better shape. Novelists like Tom Holt, Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, and Neil Gaiman have all written the kind of humor-focused genre-crossing novels that I write, so if I can honestly compare my writing to theirs, I’ll be in good shape. It’s just my short stories that are homeless.

For now.



Two new stories up

Webzines come and go, and stories published in them can be victims of domain expirations, site collapses, and so on. I’ve rescued two of my old published stories, and I am putting them online for your enjoyment.

The first is “The Unrevealed Tort, Revealed“. This story appears to be about two men, one of whom is on a horse, having an argument over fish. I’m not positive about that, though. You’ll have to read it for yourself. I can tell you, though, that this story has been favorably compared to Terry Pratchett and Monty Python. This story was published in a webzine called Sorcery and Science. The ‘zine is no longer being published, and the domain has expired, but I want this story to live on. So here it is.

The second story I’m putting online is “Who Remembers Molly“. This story was originally published online at The Harrow (a fine horror webzine which has, unfortunately, folded, and the site the victim of hackers), as well as in a collection of retold urban legends called Don’t Turn the Lights On (which you can purchase over at; the profits go to help the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah). Molly has shown up in a few of my stories, and this story is part of a cycle that I’m putting together called The Winds of Patwin County.

So. Enjoy!

Nothing else came to mind

When I was trying to compose the greatest blog post in the history of the world, nothing came to mind. So I present Tenacious D and “Tribute”, which has been my earworm all morning. Enjoy.

In other news I had no idea until a couple of weeks ago that Jack Black was involved with Tenacious D. When it comes to pop culture, I’m just a failure.

Pondering an editing project…

I’ve been a fan of Tom Waits and his music since 1990 or so, when my friend Mike introduced me to Waits’s 1985 album Rain Dogs. I admire his range and I find his subject matter enthralling. While Jennifer says my Tom Waits CDs can “live in your car” (apparently she’s not a fan), I listen to them pretty frequently.

Here’s one of my favorite Waits songs, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”, from 1992’s Bone Machine:

For contrast, here’s “Drunk on the Moon”, another of my favorites, dating back to 1974’s The Heart of Saturday Night:

This song, in fact, inspired a character in my novella, “The Winds of Patwin County”, which is, I think, one of my more successful pieces of fiction.

For some reason, I associate Tom Waits with writing. And for that reason, I’m pondering a project: editing an anthology of original short stories inspired by the music of Tom Waits. I have no idea at the moment how I’d go about doing it (I imagine I’d need to get some sort of rights from Tom Waits’s label to do this). I would probably set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project; the money would go to production costs (it’d be self-published) and to paying the contributing authors.

I don’t know for sure, though. Any thoughts, anyone?


So, our account at our webhost provider was hacked. That was exciting. There was a vulnerability in the version of PHP that the site runs, which allowed a hacker to insert malicious code into certain files; the result of this was that whenever someone visited our site, they ended up downloading malicious code which could trash their computer. Jennifer’s installation of Norton Antivirus on her computer caught the code and warned her before she downloaded the site; my mom’s computer wasn’t so lucky. Of course, since I run Linux, I don’t run any anti-virus software and I had no idea our sites were infected.

I spent my breaks and lunch hour on Friday going in and removing the malicious code. But when I got back to my computer that night, the code had returned. In other words, the hacker had gotten back in and was re-inserting the code. I contacted our provider’s technical support line and asked for assistance. They went ahead and patched the CGI wrapper on our site (geekspeak for they updated our server), and this should have taken care of the issue.

It should have. Except it didn’t.

The malicious code returned. Again. I deleted it. Again. And again it showed up. And so on.

The ticket I had opened with our hosting provider was still open at this point, so I updated it with the ongoing situation, and when it wasn’t replied to within an hour I called the provider on their toll-free line. Apparently, the PHP vulnerability had hit them hard; they had three hundred tickets in their abuse queue, and only one person answering them. Fortunately my ticket was at the top of the queue, so they could address it quickly. The abuse team — the one guy — found a back door script on our site that was allowing the hacker to continue to gain access even though our version of PHP had been patched. He deleted it, but told me there was really no way to find all of the potential back doors.

We ended up deleting the entire site, and restoring it from a backup dated May 6. This ended up being not that big a deal; I had to re-update all of our WordPress installations and restore a couple of photos but that was about it.

Is there a lesson here for me? For you? For anyone? Probably not, except to make sure your installation of PHP is up to date and fully patched. But even then, new vulnerabilities crop up and exploits will appear within hours of the vulnerability being announced.

Have fun y’all.


So, this happened…

So, over the weekend we went to the animal shelter in Sacramento, and adopted this fuzzbutt:

Another picture of Sherman

Of course we dithered over names for awhile. He’s part Russian Blue, we think, so we tossed around variations of Russian names like Boris and Ivan, then more colorful names like Blueberry. But now I think we’ve settled on Sherman as his name.

Sherman the cat

So far the other cats seem to be unimpressed. Rosemary hissed at him and Ingrid growled (brave kitty!), but the others are pretty mellow about the new interloper. Rupert wants to be his buddy. Nutmeg isn’t too sure. And Azzie couldn’t care less.

This brings our household up to six cats. I think we’ve reached our limit.

The people have spoken

Yesterday I posted to here, to LiveJournal, to Facebook, Google Plus, and to Twitter the question, “What should I write next?”, and I offered three choices:

  • Code Monkey! Wherein a computer programmer embarks on strange and exciting adventures when he finally gets up the nerve to ask the pretty receptionist out on a date;
  • Padma Wherein a medical student has continuing visions of the end of the world (the research required for this one is daunting); and
  • Iron Horse Apocalypse Wherein dark wizardry and other shenanigans run amok aboard a runaway train.

And the results were… A tie. Yep, each one received the same number of votes. So I’m going to go with my gut and work on Iron Horse Apocalypse (hereinafter referred to as IHA). It currently exists as a zeroth-level draft, full of anachronisms and cliches, but with some judicious cutting and revising I think this one will be a lot of fun to write and to read.

Code Monkey! (the exclamation point is part of the title) needs a rest. I wrote the zeroth-level draft a couple of years ago, and while I’ve enjoyed working on it, I need to take a break to get some perspective on it. It will return, though.

And, finally, I plan to continue the research I’m working on for Padma. I currently know very little about Hindu mysticism, Indian mythology and folklore, cosmology, or what life is like as a medical student; and since all these topics play a role in this novel, I need to know at least a little bit about them.

Others “in the know” might point out that I’ve got another novel in the works, The Winds of Patwin County. But since that one is comprised of interlinked stories, of which “The X of Doom” (my pirate story, the one I’m working on now) is one, I feel just fine and guilt-free about excluding it from my list.

Thanks for your input, all who inputted. And now, off to the keyboard!


I find myself stuck between writing projects. I’m progressing just fine on my short story “The X of Doom” — it’s got pirates in it! — but I’m having a hard time deciding what my next novel project should be. Here are my options, and I’m leaving it up to you, my faithful readers, to help me decide:

  • Code Monkey! is the story of a computer programmer who gets embroiled in amazing adventures when he finally works up the nerve to ask out the pretty receptionist in his office. This one exists as a zeroth level draft already, but needs quite a bit of work.
  • Padma is about a young woman who has visions about the end of the world. I’ve written an outline and a couple of scenes, but the amount of research I would need to do to write this one is daunting.
  • Iron Horse Apocalypse is about dark wizardry on a runaway train. This one also exists as a zeroth level draft.

Which one of these sounds the most intriguing to you? They all sound intriguing to me, and I’m afraid my energy, so to speak, is drawn to each of them.

Your input, dear readers, would be much appreciated.